At which point exactly did the aims of the allied powers in the Second World War change from what they were initially to the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and the other members of the Axis? When did the ‘big three’ agree together that one of their main aims was to remove Hitler and the Nazis from power?

I’ve been trying to figure out when this was-certainly (I think) by the Tehran Conference, but had this been jointly agreed before then?


3 Answers 3


The requirement for "unconditional surrender" as the only acceptable end to the war was agreed on at the Casablanca conference between the leaders of the three main Allies (UK, US, Soviet Union) in January 1943.

[Before that] there had been some differences within Britain and the US and between the two countries regarding the terms of armistice to be offered to the fascist powers. Roosevelt put an end to these controversies by demanding “unconditional surrender” by the fascist powers. This became the standpoint of all Allied nations, or what were now called the United Nations. [Reference]

The Wikipedia article gives more details on the process and reasons for the agreement, as well as the previous positions and the reasons for them.


Article 8 of the Atlantic Charter states:

they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

There can be no enforced disarmament of an opposing power without the unconditional surrender of such an opposing power. Thus, implicitly if not explicitly, the demand for unconditional surrender of Germany and its allies has been agreed by the U.S.A. and U.K. on the publication date of that agreement: AUGUST 14, 1941.

This was a key lesson from the events of November 11, 1918, through signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919: namely, that once the army of any nation has once laid down its arms, that is a de facto unconditional surrender. The victor is now both entitled, and enabled, to demand and enforce any terms at all, as all means of resisting such claims has been abandoned. None of this would have been lost on any of Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, or Hitler.

The claim is made below that pronouncements made in August 1941 cannot be regarded as "formal war objectives, ... for reasons that I hope I don't have to explain on a history forum." I counter that perhaps that should be be properly explained on a history forum, as the U.S. was already, unofficially and purely defensively of course, at war with Nazi Germany in August 1941. Prior to the August 14 date, U.S. Merchant marine losses to German action already amounted to:

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That's 3 crew lives lost, 3 vessels sunk, and 2 vessels damaged up to August 11, 1941. Another vessel, the Longtaker, would be sunk with 24 crew lives lost 3 days later on August 17. The Destroyers-for-Bases with United Kingdom was already more than a year in the past.

And, one should carefully note the sixth Article of the conference, including the clear statement "after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny":

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

The notion that the Atlantic Charter was not a joint statement by war allies I find risibly absurd. it was planned as such, held as such, and closed as such. That the Pearl Harbor attack remained some months in the future is a mere accident of timing.

  • 1
    The Atlantic Charter of August 1941 can't really be a formal war objective for the US, for reasons that I hope I don't have to explain on a history forum. It's also not true that there can be no disarmament without unconditional surrender. Let's imagine that Germany had offered a peace deal where they return occupied territory and significantly reduced their armed forces. That would achieve the above objectives without an unconditional surrender. Oct 31, 2023 at 17:15
  • 1
    If you read the accounts of the Casablanca conference it is clear the the Allies themselves did not consider that the Atlantic Charter bound them to demand unconditional surrender. They were still debating it at the highest level 18 months after the Atlantic Charter. Nov 1, 2023 at 1:52
  • 1
    I think this answer can show the road to unconditional surrender, but as an answer there are problems. 1) "There can be no enforced disarmament of an opposing power without the unconditional surrender of such an opposing power." This is a leap. Disarmament can and has been achieved at the negotiating table. 2) This only applies to the US and UK, leaving out the USSR. 3) Also discussing the following Declaration By United Nations would help. It includes the USSR and adds to the Charter by talking about "complete victory".
    – Schwern
    Nov 3, 2023 at 0:59
  • @Schwern: Thank you. I did additional reading of Churchill's WW2 memoirs last night on his recollections of both the Atlantic and Casablanca conferences. Unfortunately, my post-retirement part-time job me not only working more hours than expected, but also enjoying it. ;-) Nov 3, 2023 at 2:25

It is by the way interesting to check what where the aims of the Allies during the war.

  • First, war is triggered because of the attack of Poland by Nazi Germany. I'm not sure any clear demand was made by the Allies in 1939, but it should have included leaving Poland free and reparations. What is interesting is that this aim is put in difficulty as soon as USSR also invades Poland This is shown by the speech of French President Daladier on the 3rd of September 1939, which mentions that war is imposed to France because of the attack on Poland

  • Second, aims of war extended with the involvement of USSR: the aim of USSR was immediately the total destruction of Nazi Germany This is characterized by Stalin's speech on the 3rd July 1941, stating that USSR had "entered a fight to the death against its worth ennemy"

  • Third, during Casablanca conference, the Atlantic Chart put into a written document this aim, and applied the same willingness for Japan Reference in the other answer to the post

Note: Not sure of how the goal was written for Italy, but.. it was entirely achieved soon

  • You need to provide sources to back this up. Oct 31, 2023 at 17:12
  • The Atlantic Charter did not make explicit the requirement for Unconditional Surrender. Oct 31, 2023 at 17:31
  • My bad, I mixed it up with the Casablanca conference Oct 31, 2023 at 22:12

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